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ATPM 3.03
March 1997



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Review: Surfboard

by Michael Tsai,


Product Information
Published By: Abbott Systems Inc.
Phone: 1-800-552-9157
Fax: 914-747-9115
List Price: $39

Macintosh with System 7.5, or earlier version of System 7 with Mac Drag and Drop
Color monitor (thousands of colors recommended)
Netscape Navigator 2.0 or Microsoft Internet Explorer.
1.5 MB of free memory

Perhaps the least-improved aspect of web browsers is their bookmarking capabilities. Both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer allow you to maintain a bookmarks (or favorites, as Microsoft calls it) menu. You can create categories for bookmarks and group them into submenus. In general, browser bookmarking features are simple and serviceable. However, they don't handle large numbers of bookmarks very well, and they aren't portable between different internet applications.

This is where Surfboard comes into play. Currently, there are more than a dozen utilities available that manage bookmarks to web (or FTP) sites. These programs fall into two main categories: those that let you organize your sites into a database for associating information, keywords, or people with sites; and those aimed at improving the organization and quick-access features of today's browser bookmarks by providing stand-alone replacements. Surfboard falls into the latter category. It is most easily described as a sort of "remote control" for your web browser.

The Interface

[sb2 graphic]

Surfboard's only window is a stylishly-colored palette for launching and organizing URLs. Down the middle is a column of pop-up menus offering quick access to URLs sorted by category. URLs can be added to a quick-access category button simply by dragging them from Surf board's URL list onto the arrow button. Names of categories can be customized. You can add URLs to Surf board's main URL list by dragging text onto it. In addition to double-clicking a URL to open it, you can drag a URL out of Surfboard into your browser window to open it in that window. You can also drag a URL onto the desktop to create a text clipping of it.

The "plus" button is used to add the web site currently open in your browser to Surfboard's list of URLs. Unfortunately, you must click this button to activate this feature; there is no keyboard command that can be used from within your browser. Finally, you can add URLs to Surfboard by importing your Navigator or Internet Explorer bookmark files, thus saving yourself some re-typing.

Surfboard keeps track of the date you add a site to its list, the number of times you've accessed the site, and the last time you accessed it. Once a site is added to Surfboard, you can edit its name and URL, and you can add a short description. This is useful if a web site doesn't have a very descriptive name, or if you want a handy place to write down a user name and/or password for access to restricted sites.

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The blue triangle button allows you to switch between bookmark files with a single click (and drag). This is very handy, since you are limited to viewing only 9 categories at one time. By the same token, Surfboard's display limit of 9 categories doesn't overwhelm you. The button also shows a list of the URLs you visit most frequently for quick access.

Room For A Few Improvements

The right edge of Surfboard's window contains a green strip. Clicking on it expands the window to twice its normal size and adds a scrolling list of all the URLs in the current bookmark file. Unfortunately, the scroll bars are non-standard. There is no scroll "thumb" to drag for quick scrolling, so it can take a long time to get from one part of the list to another. You can use arrow keys to jump to the beginning or end of the list, or letter keys to jump to a specific part of it. The longer you hold down one of the scrolling buttons, the faster the list scrolls. Unfortunately, Surfboard doesn't slow down its scrolling rate when you get close to the area you want. As a result, I still would prefer to have a scroll bar and thumb to drag.

[sb4 graphic]

There is no easy way to customize the order of the URLs in the list other than sorting them alphabetically or by the number of accesses. This is one area where Surfboard provides less functionality than Netscape or Internet Explorer. Finally, clicking on the green bar to reveal the complete URL list does not move the window to an optimal position on your screen. For instance, when Surfboard's window is positioned on the right edge of the screen (where I usually place it), expansion pushes the URL list off the edge of the screen. In order to see it, the user has to manually drag the window to a new location.

Final Words

Because Surfboard is an application (instead of an extension or control panel as many bookmark managers are), it will not conflict with software already installed on your Mac. This also means that it can be quit at any time to free up RAM for other use.

Surfboard is very fast, and it does not consume much RAM or hard disk space. It is well-suited to users who want to manage a growing list of web sites and have easy access to them from any open browser. It is easy to organize bookmarks with Surfboard, though it's not quite so easy to control the order in which they are listed.

If you're looking for a bookmark manager whose functionality lies between that of Netscape Navigator and the powerful database-type managers, I recommend Surfboard. It's simple design makes organizing and accessing URLs quick and easy. A demo version is available at Abbott's web site.

[apple graphic] This review is ©1997 Michael Tsai,

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